Dee Gordon came in to Spring Training looking to impress. While many observers predicted Alex Guerrero as a lock to be the Opening Day second baseman, Gordon never for a moment doubted that the position was his to lose. Gordon went on to win the position, and over the first month of the season, he played like a man with something to prove.
Over that first month, Gordon hit .344 while stealing 13 bases and scoring 12 runs. He solidified the leadoff position in the way the Dodgers always dreamed he would, but there had to have been concern for longtime Gordon observers.
Without a doubt, Gordon is one of the most athletically gifted players on the Dodgers roster. The hope was that Gordon had simply turned a corner in his development, had benefited from some extra muscle mass or that time spent in winter ball had raised his game a notch. While those remain very real possibilities, there is also a more potentially negative outlook to Gordon’s initial production: He was just riding a hot streak, and he is now regressing to his career norms.
The month of May, unfortunately, has been very telling.
Over the past month, Gordon has put up a slash line of .244/.311/.309, which is not exactly what a team wants to see out of their leadoff hitter. He still has value at the top, however, as he is still dynamic and dangerous when he does get on base, stealing 21 bases in May to bring his season total up to 34. He is also second on the team in runs scored (18; trailing only Yasiel Puig) over the course of the past month, which gives Don Mattingly plenty of reason to afford Gordon the opportunity to catch fire yet again.
There are other reasons why it is unlikely that Gordon will be displaced from the lineup anytime soon. Without Gordon, there is no other Dodger player that is the “prototypical” leadoff guy. Sure, Mattingly toyed with the idea of using Puig in that spot, but part of his rationale involved the fact that Puig had not yet proved that he was an “RBI guy.” With Puig leading the team in RBI and Hanley Ramirez and Adrian Gonzalez enduring their own struggles, it seems unlikely that Puig will be moved from the three spot in the order anytime soon. Chone Figgins fits the mold and he has hit well of late, but his production in recent years does not compare favorably with Gordon’s and is a very unlikely candidate.
Of course, Gordon would also have to be replaced in the field, and the best candidate to do so just had a part of his ear bit off by Miguel Olivo. That player would be Guerrero, and he is expected to be out for some time as he recovers from his injury. This is an absolute shame, because Guerrero was hitting exceptionally well, even by Albuquerque standards. He had slashed .376/.417/.735 with 10 home runs and 29 RBI in his 33 games there, a production rate that may have had the Dodgers considering whether or not to displace Gordon.
For the time being, however, the leadoff spot and second base belong to Gordon. Hopefully, Gordon will seize the opportunity to solidify his position there this summer, just as he did this spring.Tags: Adrian Gonzalez, Alex Guerrero, Baseball, Dee Gordon, Don Mattingly, Hanley Ramirez, Los Angeles, Los Angeles Dodgers, MLB, Yasiel Puig